Mandating expanded coverage for the treatment of mental illnesses, alcoholism and substance abuse



The Business Council opposes this legislation that would mandate for all group health insurance contracts to expand coverage for the treatment of mental illnesses, alcoholism and substance abuse.

This mandate would raise the cost of health insurance in New York State, making New York less competitive than other states where such mandates do not apply.

Specifically, the bill requires absolute parity in the coverage of mental illness, alcohol abuse and substance abuse. That is, benefit coverage for those conditions must be at the same level as coverage for physical health benefits.

A 1997 Milliman and Robertson report predicted cost increased of 5-10% for a mandate requiring 60 days of inpatient mental health care and unlimited outpatient care. The cost of mandates like this proposal would be on top of general rising costs of coverage, making coverage less affordable for many employers.

Most small companies cannot afford to self-insure to escape the mandates. Therefore, the cost of the mandates tends to fall most heavily on those who can't escape them and those who can't afford them - the Mom and Pop operations, new businesses, small and local businesses. Two thirds of those who are uninsured in New York either work for such employers or someone in the family does. The system of mandates is discouraging the very group of employers we most need to help offer insurance coverage.

As with the services required by other mandates, The Business Council does not have any problems with companies offering services as a benefit. What we oppose is the mandate that all health insurance policies offer this service whether the payor wants it or can afford it.

There are dozens of mandate bills under consideration by the legislature. It is impossible to expect the business community to pay for all of these added services. This bill is just one of the many that we will oppose as long as they raise costs for the companies in New York State that can least afford to pay it. For these reasons, The Business Council opposes this legislation.